Are dental professionals overlooking the importance of mouth rinses?

Written by Heather Siler

Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss are given to most patients at their prophylaxis appointment, but are clinicians overlooking a key element in homecare? Mouth rinses are available in every store and are usually chosen by the patient based on TV commercials or ads on mobile devices. While using mouthwash isn’t a replacement for brushing and flossing, it can be a helpful adjunct to the oral health routine. Rinses are relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and take around 30 seconds. They flow into hard-to-reach areas and have ingredients based on varying mouth conditions. Becoming familiar with mouthwashes is important for the dental team so that they’re ready to recommend a product based on the patient’s diagnosis.

Therapeutic and cosmetic are the two types of mouthwashes. There are sub-categories for each type, and some are over-the-counter while others are prescription only. Children under the age of six shouldn’t use mouthwash because of underdeveloped swallowing reflexes which could lead to ingestion of the product. If a doctor recommends a rinse for a child six and under, extreme care must be taken to avoid ingestion unless the doctor recommends swallowing the product.

Therapeutic rinses contain active ingredients that help control plaque, halitosis, gingivitis, and reduce the incidence of caries. These active ingredients include chlorhexidine gluconate, essential oils with alcohol, peroxide, fluoride, and cetylpyridinium chloride. Chlorhexidine gluconate and essential oils with alcohol assist in controlling plaque and gingivitis. Peroxide is useful in whitening rinses. Fluoride is an excellent choice in helping to prevent decay. Cetylpyridinium chloride is used to treat halitosis. All of these are sold over-the-counter except for chlorhexidine which is by prescription only. Cosmetic mouth rinses are mainly used to freshen the breath and do little to assist with serious mouth conditions.

One other crucial factor when considering mouthwashes is whether they have earned the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. This seal assures that the product is safe and effective based on scientific evidence and approval from the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.

As with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss, it’s best to educate the patient as to why adding mouthwash to their home regiment is essential.  Once the benefits, ease of use, and cost-effectiveness are pointed out, the patient should see that adding this step at home is beneficial to their oral health.